Who do you Serve?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a technology sales conference. Having over 34 years in technology sales and sales management, I felt right at home.

I shared that if you want to stand out and be relevant in sales in the year 2023, you need to change the narrative and raise the standard. Don’t be satisfied to outperform your “numbers” – instead, focus on your overall mission, bring confidence, competence, and creativity to the buying cycle, and, as my friend Larry Levine would say, “Sell from the Heart.”

After I exited stage right, a technology executive approached me to thank me and asked me how I made that “transformation.” I had never been asked that before, but it gave me pause as I got a little emotional as it happened shortly after the Miracle on the Hudson when I was in that “controlled chaos” mode.

During that time, I was engaged and leading one of the largest opportunities in our business segment at Oracle. When someone is going to spend upward of 8 figures on a decision, it takes time to build trust. During that time, I was spending up to three days a week with my prospective client. I was all in.

2009 was a year in which the economy was in a recession, and companies were reevaluating their relationships. My direct management was focused on one thing: when will you bring the revenue in? To the point, he asked me to fly to Michigan the week after the plane crash when I stopped by the office that next morning on my way home from the airport.

His VP told me I didn’t have to go, but I made the call at that moment to head to Michigan the next week.

The flight to Michigan was the toughest flight I had ever been on, not physically but emotionally, but I got to Grand Rapids and then drove to the plant. When I arrived, my client met me at the door and thanked me for coming. He wasn’t expecting me to be there, but I told him I wasn’t there for Oracle; I was there for him.

That was when I changed my narrative on how I would go forward in my sales career, and it propelled me to raise the standard of how I approached my business and my life.

What I learned from that moment came from a question I was asked during a conversation I had with my mentor, Bill.

I had just entered the profession of sales. I left the hotel and restaurant management field to come back to Charlotte to be with my future wife. One day, I was having lunch with Bill at the Howard Johnson restaurant I managed a few years prior.

The question he asked me was,

“Who do you serve?”

What he was teaching me is that life is nothing but choices. At that time, I was primarily focused on my income and financially setting my wife and me up. I was driven by money. As I had shared in a previous blog, when I was in college, starting my second semester freshman year, if I wanted to go to college, I had to pay for it myself, including all the additional expenses that went with it. I was trying to keep up with the lifestyle my friends were having. I was living in scarcity.

The initial choice I made when I started in sales was that I could drive as much income as I wanted to. So I was heads down on investing my time, effort, and money into that mission.

What he was telling me was that it was time to make a choice.

Did I want to choose to to serve my own interest and bank account or

Was I going to serve and return what had been given to me to others?

There were times in my sales career that I chose to serve my bank account and I did well. It is like what I learned from Tony Robbins, about effort and reward.

If you give a fair effort, you get no rewards as you only gave it a fair effort. If you give a good effort, you will get a fair reward for your time and effort. If you give an excellent effort you get good rewards.

This is where most people stop, but there is another level.

When I chose to serve my bank account, many times I gave an excellent effort and I got good rewards and recognition. But it’s when I chose to serve and return what had been given to me was when I moved to the next level.

The next level is if you give an outstanding effort you get outstanding rewards. You get everything. It’s like being Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, a Tony Robbins.

What I learned and started to practice that day in Michigan with my client was the choice I made from that point forward, to serve them and return what had been given to me to them, my future clients and relationships and let the bank account fall where it may.

That one choice not only helped me help that client to move forward and invest in Oracle and future opportunities at Oracle, but also in my relationships such as what I do with the American Red Cross.

You give an outstanding effort for your clients and relationships and you are rewarded with outstanding rewards, sometimes money, sometimes experiences, sometimes friendships that will be with you the remainder of your life.

So I told my new friend that the moment that helped me transform was when I changed my narrative and raised my standard. I wasn’t focused on outperforming my “numbers” – instead I, focused on my overall mission and brought confidence, competence, and creativity to my clients and relationships.

I chose to serve and return to others what was given to me.

That was what Bill was telling me the last time I saw him alive, three months before he passed away when he gave me those notes from 1929 and made me promise him ” do not let it die with you.”

Every day is a choice. That is why at the end of my talks the last thing I say is it is incumbent on each of us to find someone to mentor. You need to leave everything you have learned and experienced with someone before you go to your heavenly home because once you perish, it’s gone.

I have been blessed by people doing this with me, whether it was Bill or those two holocaust neighbors who shared their story with me on how they survived the holocaust and from that point forward, made every MOMENT MATTER.

Ask yourself today, “Who do I serve?” and make a decision right now because it will set your destiny. And when you do that you will begin on your pathway to

create opportunity out of your uncertainty and

Create your own flight plan for your future.